Saturday, May 16, 2020

Today In Theatre History

Earlier this week, I posted a blog celebrating the birthday of Irving Berlin. As I mentioned, his biggest Broadway hit was Annie Get Your Gun. Well as it turns out, that show opened exactly seventy-four years ago today. May 16, 1946. Now back then, the Tony Awards didn't exist. Those wouldn't come around until a year later. It did however win the award for Best Musical Revival of the Year, when it returned in 1999, in a brand new production starring Bernadette Peters, in her Tony Award winning performance as Annie Oakley.

I actually saw the show during it's final dress rehearsal, the afternoon before it's first preview. Going in, I wasn't that familiar with the show, except that the classic tune, "There's No Business, Like Show Business", came from it. Later on, I discovered that the musicals original composer was set to be Jerome Kern, who tragically died from a cerebral hemorrhage on his way to the East Coast to begin work on the show. It was also produced by the Tony Award winning team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.

The original production, which starred Tony Award winner Ethel Merman, ran for a total of 1,147 performances. Now while Ms. Merman played Annie for it's entire run, the 1999 revival, showed a bevy of different performers including soap opera queen Susan Lucci, and country music star Reba McEntire, who's five month critically acclaimed run, garnered her a Drama Desk and Outer Critic's Award.

Who knows? Maybe when this pandemic is over, somebody will produce a brand new revival of this beloved musical, starring a rotating group of talented female stars. My first couple of picks would be Broadway favorites, and Tony Award winners Kelli O'Hara and Jessie Mueller. Although a couple of award winning singers like Leann Rimes and Kelly Clarkson would fit the bill quite nicely as well. Make it happen Broadway producers. Stay safe everyone, and keep looking out for each other. Until next time theatre fans.

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